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Cherry Catsup Salad


As is clear by now, like many others, I am both fascinated and horrified by postwar food. The terrible recipes of the 1950s-1970s are a wonder to behold. Today, I was introduced to this.


Color me shocked that this horror comes from South Dakota. Probably some distant relative of mine. Really, this is the single worst ketchup-based recipe I have ever seen. And that’s a high bar!

I have discovered as well that there is a website devoted to making and trying these food catastrophes. You may not be surprised that this is a terrible recipe.

This didn’t go together at all. At all! If you have ever had a bite of ketchup-covered hot dog in your mouth and washed it down with a gulp of cherry Kool-Aid, then you know what this gelatin tasted like. It tasted like a bad idea. Add a bite of salad to that mouthful, and you have the complete flavor profile: A bunch of random ingredients, thrown together and suspended in gelatin. I can guess that this was supposed to be a type of side to be served with meat, like a sauce or a chutney, but I can’t think of the type of meat that this would compliment. Except for hot dogs, apparently. In this gelatin’s defense, it had a good, crunchy texture. And it did remind us of summer through the whole hot-dog Kool-Aid thing. But other than that it was a bunch of different flavors all happening at once. And all those flavors told us ketchup and cherry gelatin do not go together well.

The canned black olives may be the worst part of a very bad idea. Even worse than the ketchup. What’s with canned black olives? It’s like postwar food companies decided to take a wonderful food, with hundreds if not thousands of awesome varieties, and breed them to make a really terrible tasting olive that somehow worked brilliantly on the market. I guess it’s forgivable in the 1970s. Not sure why on earth someone would eat them now. I figure the use of canned black olives is a good sign that one shouldn’t eat at a given pizza place, although the even less forgivable use of canned mushrooms is more telling. Anyway, you all should make this recipe and report back.

Also, this California prune cream salad from 1934 is seriously the most disgusting historical artifact I have ever run across.


Night night! Sweet dreams!

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  • Captain Oblivious

    I may never forgive you for posting that picture of prune cream salad.

    • Pseudonym

      Hey, I recognize that picture! It’s what my cat left me on my carpet the other day!

    • wca

      The picture is not frightening. The recipe behind the picture is.

      Chili sauce, prunes, cottage cheese, pickles, and mayo. With cream.

      • Warren Terra

        Hey, I like two of those ingredients, maybe three. Though not together.

        • Ok, well, minus the cream and the mayo this might make an interesting deconstructed salad.

  • Ramon A. Clef

    Black olives are simply bland, not bad.

    • efgoldman

      Black olives are simply bland, not bad.

      There are very tasty black and dark purple olives out there. Kalamatas, for instance.

      • DrDick

        Indeed. I loves me some kalamatas. Niçoise are really good, as well.

    • Juicy_Joel

      I actually enjoy canned black olives, though to be fair I’m a dumb piece of shit philistine.

      • iliketurtles

        Depending on location (very northern midwest in my case), black olives outside of the can are not available, and yes I like the canned fuckers. Mushrooms of several varieties are always available, plus a walk in the woods can be fruitful.

        • ExpatChad

          No to mention fatal.

      • JustRuss

        I can’t say I enjoy them, but as an addition to a sauce, or a pizza topping, they’re perfectly OK. Canned mushrooms however, no excuse.

      • bender

        Some brands of canned whole black olives are more flavorful than others. I can’t remember the name of my favorite, but it’s one of the more expensive brands.

        I like the big green Sicilian? olives you can buy at an olive bar, but nicoise olives are too salty for my taste.

    • Randy

      Every time I walk by the olive bar in the grocery store, I have to restrain myself from yelling “Olive fight!!!”

    • Captain Oblivious

      Back when Taco Bell had, literally, five things + beverages on the menu, one of them was the Enchirito — basically, a smothered burrito. This was served with three small slices of canned black olives on top. This is how I learned to love canned black olives.

      I am not being silly.

      • I like canned black olives in exactly three forms: sliced on mushroom and olive pizzas (the mushrooms need to be fresh); sliced on cheesy fake Mexican food (if I buy a can, I am probably making oven nachos); whole, on my finger, to be eaten off in a fond reminiscence of childhood.

        Also my grandma’s “little pizza” appetizer has minced black olive in it, and it actually is vital — lots of glutamate in olives.

    • bender

      One of my recipes for finger food potlucks is tea sandwiches with a filling of chopped black olives and cream cheese, thinned with a little half and half, and seasoned with white pepper and a bit of cayenne or paprika.

  • efgoldman

    We’ve linked to these cookbooks/sites many times before. Do we want to start down the “what’s the most disgusting recipe you can find” road again?

    • Yes.

      • efgoldman

        You know you are playing with fire here.
        And aspic.
        And Jello in all its permutations.
        And ketchup. And mayo. And mystery meat.

        • David Allan Poe

          Aspic gets a bad rap because of all the terrible versions made with canned stock and too much gelatin, but in its proper form of well-made clear meat stock, reduced and then clarified with egg whites and fortified with sherry or Madeira and used as an accent on various cold meat dishes or as a binder for head cheeses or things like jambon persillade (ham and parsley), it is delicious.

          • efgoldman

            Aspic gets a bad rap….
            …but in its proper form….
            …it is delicious.

            Well, you enjoy it, then. You may even have mine.

          • mch

            Yes. Aspic is delicious when done right (and it’s really not hard to do right). And ways of doing it right were being widely promulgated in the U.S. in the very period Erik imagines all was prune cream salad (or whatever).

          • I think the distaste for aspic doesn’t come from the quality of its preparation (I doubt many people at this point have ever tasted it) but from the uncanny quality of solid foods floating in clear jelly.

      • Saskexpat

        I got a 60’s Canadian cookbook that has a chapter for “Fish and Sea Mammals” with a recipe for “Newfoundland Flippers.”

        • keta

          Don’t forget the gravy!

          When I worked as a fishing guide at a remote BC lodge one of the managers would have us save the milt sacs so chef could cut them into bite-size pieces and then batter and deep-fry them. Most guests apparently thought this was a delicious appetizer until they were told the milt sac is the male salmon’s gonads.

          • Saskexpat

            According to the people I know who have tried it, seal is pretty nasty. The cookbook we have is pretty interesting, and has lots of recipes for obscure game and small critters (ptarmigan, beaver and the like) and lots of overviews on dressing and butchering critters. It is easy to laugh at, but the reality is that most people in the far north are really poor, and rely on game to survive.

            • David Allan Poe

              Beaver (cue jokes) is truly delicious.

              • dpm

                I had smoked beaver tail once, in Estonia. It was not delicious.

            • B. Peasant

              If seal meat is like whale meat, it should be good.
              But if it’s bad, it’ll be really really bad.

              Good whale meat is tough but good. Bad whale meat is tough and tasting of rancid fish oil.

      • ExpatChad
        • ans

          Jufran is actually quite good and this is coming from someone who generally detests ketchup. I wouldn’t slather my french fries in it but it makes a whole lot of sense in Filipino-style spaghetti and delicious bbq pork skewers (secret ingredient: banana ketchup).

          • ExpatChad

            YES! Filipino spaghetti, in native form, induces diabetic attacks, and Jufran is a good antidote.

            But then, there’s Litson Sauce (lechon sauce) made from pork liver, breadcrumbs, and vinegar, which is the antidote to life….

        • twbb

          Isn’t this a country whose national dish is Spam?

          • ExpatChad

            Very nearly, but in provincial Phl, menu is quite restricted. The largest supermarket here has no olives, canned or otherwise,(they rarely have cans!) dill pickles are totally unknown, and it took me 2 years to find any form of mustard.

            And, we have the Little Donald.

            But, I’m not coming back.


    • Warren Terra

      I believe Loomis is pro-mayonnaise. So, can you really trust him to know what is or in’t disgusting?

      • rea

        Mayonnaise, like US independence, is collateral damage from the Seven Years War

      • Captain Oblivious

        Good mayonnaise is the most wonderfulest of all condiments.

        Bad mayonnaise is barely a notch above ketchup.

        My opinion of Loomis’ taste would depend on which brand he prefers.

  • Saskexpat

    My spouse grew up on the Canadian prairies, and has a bunch of old hand-me-down cookbooks produced by local small town organizations that have similar recipes. As near as I can tell, there was some mid-20th century mass hysteria that made people think that truly disgusting concoctions would be edible if put in a jello mold.

    • wca

      As a child, I remember going to family reunions where the most fun game would be “guess what’s floating in the Jello”.

    • DrDick

      They still think that in Oklahoma. My sister is living(?) proof.

      • Now its time to mention Undescended Twinkies, alas, no image is forthcoming when you google it, but as I recall it is every bit as horrifying as the name indicates.

    • I blame endemic smoking. When 20 years of coffin nails have blasted both the sense taste and smell, all that food has to offer is appearance. And revolting as I imagine they taste, some of the aspic creations look interesting.

  • You monster!

  • wca

    Oh, we’re linking to the Mid-Century Menu site. So, anyone for beef fudge?

    • efgoldman

      So, anyone for beef fudge?

      Let s/he who is without sin cast the first barf.

    • Juicy_Joel

      The authors claim it’s delicious so, yes?

    • advocatethis

      Sounds like something someone might conceive of while stoned. Two great things apart, should be great together, right? But from my experience from my observation of people who are stoned, not something you should try to pull off.

  • Is all this horrible crap based on the Depression experiences of women who became “homemakers” in the ’50s? Like, having to use every canned good in the pantry ’cause you can’t afford to hit the market ’til payday?

    And please show us the Cherry-Coke “salad”. That sounds good.

    • Dave Empey

      The Google turns up a number of recipes for Cherry Coke Salad. Unfortunately they all seem to involve canned pineapple which I don’t much care for.

    • Randy

      I have a recipe for it, to be served as a salad, not a dessert. It calls for celery and, I think, walnuts.

      I think if you just made cherry Jello with Coke it would be tasty. My Mother would have added frozen Bing cherries and topped it with whipped cream.

    • Matty

      Oddly enough, one of the Moosewood* cookbooks from the mid-90’s had a recipe for Cherry-Coke salad in it. My mother brought it to a church potluck, and then brought approximately 3/4 of it home. Make of that what you will.

      *A beloved vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, for those not familiar. It puts out approximately a phone-book sized cookbook a year, which is much beloved of slightly hippie-ish Midwestern vegetarians like my mom.

    • twbb

      I always thought it was social gamesmanship combined with a fetish for modernity.

  • Wapiti

    I realized, halfway through the post, that my back teeth were involuntarily clenched. Either bad memories or an overactive imagination, I guess. Or both.

    • DrDick

      Definitely both.

    • Captain Oblivious

      Lockjaw from the botulism.

      • ExpatChad

        Likely rigor mortis. It will pass…

  • keta

    …but I can’t think of the type of meat that this would compliment.

    I think this atrocity would dish out a never-ending stream of cajolery, admiration and veneration to even the lowliest cut in an effort to share the same plate.

  • joel hanes

    My Great-Aunt Marion’s entry in the incomprehensible mid-20th-century festive foods contest:

    Festive Holiday Gels

    Lime Jello
    flat ginger ale
    canned pineapple chunks
    pecan halves
    manzanilla olives (small, “pimento”-stuffed green olives)
    festive Jello molds (GA Marion had a dozen or more star-or-wreath-shaped individual-portion aluminum Jello molds, and used those as well as a large wreath ring mold)

    Lay molds on table; place alternating olives and pecans around deepest part.
    Sparsely layer with half of the pineapple chunks.

    Make lime Jello per box, substituting flat ginger ale for some or all of the water.
    Half-fill the molds with the Jello.
    Repeat layering of olives, pecans, and pineapple.
    Add the remaining Jello.
    Refrigerate; unmold over lettuce leaves on platter to serve.

    Out of love for GA Marion (who gave me great books at Christmas, and kept me subscribed to MAD Magazine for my birthday), I have eaten this horrible stuff at Christmas every year for fifty years or more. It never tastes better. I always take some and eat it.

    • B. Peasant

      A Norwegian yuletide staple is the “Delfia cake”. Named for “Delfia fett”, a brand of solid coconut oil. Heat the oil with unsweetened baking chocolate till liquid. Add a few spoons of strong coffee and an egg/sugar mix. Pour in a bread mould while adding biscuits and (optionally) jelly men in layers. Top with those horrid cake topping wine gum things.

      It’s the dwarf bread of Christmas concoctions.

      • Matty

        That actually sounds good, I’m not going to lie..

      • efgoldman

        Jelly men?

        • ExpatChad

          I did pretty well on the recipe until Tilsett sjokoladeblandingen og bland godt til en jevn røre, and then my limited knowdledge of French failed, and…

  • C Nelson Reilly

    I’m going to make that prune salad on election night and call it “Trump Loaf”

  • efgoldman

    OK Loomis. You made me do it!
    Betty Crocker’s Summer Salad Pie
    (Tuna and Jello Pie)

  • AdamPShort

    You want The Olive in California: History of an Immigrant Tree



    There was a series of poisoning incidents involving black olives in the 20’s. From that point on for many decades industry practices required that black olives be cooked to a very high temperature and then canned. This practice produces a virtually flavorless olive.

  • erick

    Stuff like that is why as a child in the 70s drug to church potlucks you learned to find what your mom, aunt and grandma brought and then the KFC that some lazy person brought.

  • Calming Influence

    Well, the California prune cream salad might taste awful, but you have to admit that the presentation…Naw, fuck it, that’s cat puke on a lettuce leaf.

  • mch

    Me, I enjoy a good jello salad now and then. And a ballpark frank tastes good by definition.

    That said, Erik needs a lot more learning about American food history. Yes, let’s make fun of the 70’s and 80’s. When Julia Child had already come on the scene in the 60’s and Marcella Hazan in the early 70’s (for instance). Not to mention the fine foods of the South and the Southwest since forever. All that fresh fish on the coasts, rivers, and lakes of this huge continent. My grandmother of southwest VA wooed my grandfather in 1917 with walnuts she’d shelled for him. He’d grown up poor in NYC, and his mother’s recipe for “chopped beef stew” (she was born in 1853) I have in her handwriting — delicious (onions, potatoes, salt, chopped beef, and lots of water)! Lacks the awareness of touches like basil (which my mother learned from Italians a generation or two later in the Village), but delicious. Anyway, much as I am fond of Erik and respect him as a historian on many fronts, he is not my go-to guy for American food history AT ALL. Those who have only recently awoken from a food stupor should not generalize too easily from their personal experiences about our country’s wonderful history of GOOD FOOD. No, GREAT FOOD. (I find myself remembering the elderly Gene Bacher, tossing a salad of fresh young lettuces in rural NY in the 1950’s…. Yes, my trousers are rolled, now, but I was just a little girl then — used to my parents’ garden in NJ, so I don’t know why Gene’s salad-tossing stands out in my memory, except that he was such a sweet man.)

    • mch

      I must add: the Bachers had an apple orchard. I mean, they earned income from their apple orchard. Oh, what? Did Americans of the 1950’s (and earlier) eat fruits? Who knew?

  • weirdnoise


    Bring back the dead horses!

    • rea

      Loomis special:

      3 -4 lbs whole pike, cleaned (leave on head and tail)
      8 slices dry bread
      2 tablespoons bacon fat
      1 cup tomatoes, cooked (canned is fine)
      1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
      1⁄4 cup flour
      6 bay leaves
      lemon, for garnish
      parsley, for garnish

      Rub fish with salt and chill for 3 hours.
      Soak bread in cold water until soft, press out water and add bacon fat, tomatoes and seasonings.
      Wash pike; stuff and fasten opening securely with toothpicks or lace with cooking string and dredge with flour.
      Preheat oven to 375F and grease a baking pan.
      Place fish in prepared baking pan with 3 bay leaves beneath and 3 on top.
      Bake, allowing about 10 minutes per pound for fish under 4 pounds.
      At the end of 15 minutes baking, sprinkle lightly with salt and paprika.
      Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley.

  • Stag Party Palin

    Just to prove that not all bad food is ancient history…. We went on a river trip this spring and one night the first course was “foie gras creme brulee” (can’t be bothered with the diacriticals tonight). My wife was brave enough to order it, is spite of her moral dislike of foie gras. She just had to see it. When it came I was reminded of that great line from “Down Periscope” when the psychotic executive officer harangued the cook with, “What would you want for breakfast? Coffee, or a hot steaming cup of lard????”

    And there it was, it demitasse of cloudy brown liquid fat. The table was split 50-50 as to whether it was a cooking mistake (one couple at the table owned a restaurant) or was intended to be as we saw it. Nobody was brave enough to try it.

  • mch

    Yes. Aspic is delicious when done right (and it’s really not hard to do right). And ways of doing it right were being widely promulgated in the U.S. in the very period Erik imagines all was prune cream salad (or whatever).

  • Docrailgun

    I could eat my weight in canned black olives. Not-canned would be better, true, but at least they wouldn’t be green olives

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    That second photo looks like many a gefilte fish I have eaten. We once hosted a Seder and gave our dog a piece of gefilte fish. She dutifully carried it in her mouth over to a quiet spot, put in on the floor…and rolled in it. We and our guests were hysterical.

    My mom was a late 60s/ early 70s Navy wife, so was up to her eyeballs in this stuff. She recalls a party where the hors d’oeuvres included cherry tomatoes stuffed with whipped Spam.

  • Every once in a while I’ll cook a “retro dinner” where I’ll make something like green-bean casserole.

    That’s a little too retro for me.

    • NonyNony

      a “retro dinner” where I’ll make something like green-bean casserole.

      With my family we call that “Thanksgiving”.

      • twbb

        Mine, too. It’s not bad if you put enough stuff to overpower the green beans.

        • efgoldman

          It’s not bad if you put enough stuff to overpower the green beans.

          It doesn’t count unless you put the canned crispy onions on the top.

  • NonyNony

    In this gelatin’s defense, it had a good, crunchy texture.


  • randy khan

    In fairness, the recipe doesn’t actually call for canned black olives, although I’m confident that a cook in South Dakota would have used them since regular ripe olives wouldn’t have been available.

    • (((Hogan)))

      It doesn’t even specify black olives. I’m sure green olives stuffed with pimento would work just as well.

  • N__B

    It tasted like a bad idea.

    Well, yeah.

  • yenwoda

    The real horror show is the mostly-hidden recipe to the right for Cherry-Coke something or other:

    gelatin and 7-….
    gelatin and C…
    Cheese may b…
    the hot juice

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